Beijing: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to Arunachal Pradesh could "add fuel" to the territorial dispute and make it difficult to resolve the vexed boundary issue, a Chinese state-run daily said on Friday.
"On whatever occasion and in whatever form, should a Prime Minister of India formally visit the disputed border region and celebrate the founding of a state unilaterally declared by India, it will undoubtedly step on China's toes and influence bilateral relations," a write-up in the influential Global Times said.
"Just a few weeks after the Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj advocated an 'out-of-box solution' for Sino-Indian border disputes, Modi's visit to so-called 'Arunachal Pradesh', established largely in territory belonging to China's Tibet, has triggered strong dissatisfaction and opposition from China," the article said.
It said that while there can be plenty of reasons for Modi to attend the celebration in Arunachal Pradesh, including boosting BJP's political influence, "he has more reasons not to go, among which the major concern is that a visit could add fuel to the long-standing territorial disputes between China and India, making it difficult to achieve a resolution and irritating bilateral ties."
China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of Southern Tibet. It says the border dispute is confined to 2000 km, mainly in the eastern part of the over 4000 km boundary and makes no mention of the Aksai Chin area taken over in the 1962 war.
Both India and China are readying for the 18th round of boundary talks expected to take place next month.
The talks will be held between designated Special Representatives -- National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.
Prime Minister Modi visited Arunachal Pradesh on February 20 to participate in the state's 29th foundation day and also flagged off the Naharlagun-New Delhi Express.
China protested the visit twice. While a diplomatic protest was lodged on the same day, the next day Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin "called in" Indian Ambassador Ashok Kantha and stated that Modi's visit "infringes on China's territorial sovereignty and interests, magnifies the dispute on the border issue and violates the consensus on appropriately handling the border issue."
Refuting Chinese criticism, spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry Syed Akbaruddin had said in New Delhi that "the state of Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India. The people of Arunachal Pradesh are citizens of India. Indian leaders visit Arunachal Pradesh from time to time, as they visit other parts of India."
Noting that "now is the best time to bring the border disputes to an end, because a solution requires not only strong will but also strong political implementation capacity," the article said, "there is no denying that, no matter which approach is taken to solve the disputes, both countries should apply the principle of mutual understanding and accommodation."
"Solutions will require both sides to respect reality and recognise history. Since the boundary disagreements come from colonial days and the Chinese government has never recognised any treaty or similar document signed illegally and unilaterally by India, it is impossible to settle this issue just based on the present situation," it said.
China and India signed the Agreement on the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the Boundary Question in 2005, hoping to find a mutually acceptable solution to the border disputes.
"But conflicts and divergences have emerged in recent years while implementing the agreement. Hence, identifying the lines of control on each side will be a key step to facilitating the long-stalled process of bringing the disputes to a peaceful resolution," the article said, pointing to the border stand off during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to India last year.
Such standoffs should be avoided, helping create a friendly atmosphere to further deepen bilateral ties, it said.
"As with every other relationships around the world, cooperation and confrontation coexist all the time in Sino-India relations. This relationship between two rapidly emerging powers is all about how to get on well with one another despite all the controversies and conflicts," the article said.
"Modi's government, which is focusing on development and improving people's livelihood, realises it must maintain a good relationship with China from which India could derive the markets, technologies and financial support to substantially boost the country's economy," it said.
"In an atmosphere of cooperation, with strong leaders on both sides, the two countries should seize the strategic opportunity to solve their border disputes," it added.